BHS Parents, Faculty Respond After 'Race to Nowhere' Screening
The documentary addresses academic pressures facing students today, and what some teachers are doing to lessen their burden.
The screening of a documentary at Broadneck High School (BHS) about academic pressures facing students caused quite a stir among some faculty and parents.
The documentary, Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America's Achievement Culture, directed by Vicki Abeles, was shown in March to about 60 parents at BHS. Since then, there has been a push from some Broadneck community members for additional screenings.
The documentary is “a call to mobilize families, educators and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens,” according to its website.
In the movie, a high school student poses the question, “If I can’t fail, and make mistakes, then how can I be expected to learn?”
After the screening at BHS, there was a roundtable discussion among parents and faculty members. One of the parents there, Melanie Norris, said she was stirred by the response from some teachers, who were moved by the documentary.
“One math teacher said he was going to come to work the next morning and do things differently, even if it meant he got fired," Norris said. "He was very passionate and brave."
But not everyone reacted the same way. Guidance counselor Jennifer Evans said she wasn't moved by the movie.
"It did not produce an emotional response in me," Evans said. "I always encourage students to find balance. I did before seeing the movie, and I continue to do so. The movie reiterated things that I already was aware of."
Evans was instrumental in bringing the film to the school. It was brought to BHS through a grant from the Garrett Lee Smith suicide prevention foundation. Guidance counselors Faith Culp and Evans wrote the grant proposal.
As part of that grant, the movie was offered for free to parents to raise community awareness of the issues teenagers face. As a follow up, the counselors are sponsoring question, persuade and refer training to parents on April 21. This is an opportunity for parents to learn strategies to identify suicidal behavior and what to do in order to get students the help they need, Evans said.
The 2010 documentary has been making headlines across the country. The movie doesn’t have a major theater distribution deal, but has reached audiences through local screenings at schools and community centers in more than 40 states.
More than 600 teachers and principals across the country have adopted a no-homework policy over weekends and holidays, according to a press release from the film's website.
Patch reached out to several BHS faculty members, but many chose not to respond to questions and said the film is a “hot-button issue.”
Some BHS faculty members have said they want additional screenings of the movie. The high school's AP psychology class is scheduled to show the movie to students after their final exams, but a school-wide airing isn’t on the table just yet.
Have you seen the documentary? Do you think students are overwhelmed by academic pressures today?